The South West Combination title is in Oxford's grasp after they beat leaders Keynsham Town at Roman Way to close the gap at the top of the table to just two points, and with United having a game in hand. The ladies knew they had to win this match if they were to keep their title hopes alive as the season nears its end and with a five-point gap separating them from Keynsham – the only side to have beaten the yellows in the league this season – they knew this was the match on which the championship would turn.
It was a tense and nervy game littered with mistakes, but it was the yellows who held their nerve best, dominating most of the second half before seeing out a nervy final few minutes as the visitors desperately sought a late equaliser.
Neither side demonstrated much composure during the nervy opening exchanges but it was United who took the lead after 16 minutes when top-scorer Lauren Allison headed on a floated cross from Catherine Beaver, which squirmed through the goalkeeper's hands to make it advantage Oxford early on in the game.
Keynsham looked for a quick response and began to impose themselves on the game, but the Oxford defence were in miserly mood and their chances were limited. Instead, United almost doubled their lead when Tash Caswell latched onto a goal kick which had travelled the full length of the field and was unlucky to see her attempt come back off the bar.
But eventually Keynsham's pressure told and they got the goal they had been threatening before the half was out. A good passing move ended in a dangerous ball across the face of goal which was hammered into the back of the net from point-blank range to level the scores. Advantage Keynsham once again.
If the visitors had arguably shaded the first half, the second belonged to the hosts as Keynsham faced a yellow onslaught for much of the half. Keynsham knew a draw would suit them better than Oxford and, after overcoming a scare early in the half when another Allison header came back off the bar, sought to wind down the clock as much as possible.
|Picture from OULFC flickr|
There were still ten minutes remaining (plus an exorbitant amount of stoppage time) and it was backs to the walls for United as Keynsham threw everyone forward in a desperate last-ditch search for an equalising goal. And despite a few nervy moments in the Oxford goalmouth, the U's defence stood strong in the face of considerable pressure from a Keynsham side that had scored 79 goals in their 16 league matches this season.
On the final whistle, the Oxford players celebrated as if they had won the league. And should they go on to claim the title in their final matches this season, they may just look back on this match as they day they did it.